AFRICANGLOBE – Ethiopia is set to hold its fifth legislative election on Sunday, in which 58 parties will vie for 547 seats in parliament and for seats on the country’s regional state councils.
The total number of registered Ethiopian voters stands at 36.8 million in a county of 90 million. Around 48 percent of eligible voters are female.
As many as 58 political parties are competing in the elections at both federal and state levels.
Contesting parties have fielded a total of 5,819 candidates who will vie for seats in the country’s federal parliament and state councils.
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) said preliminary election results would be announced five days after Election Day. Final results will be disclosed on June 22.
According to the NEBE, some 45,000 polling stations have been set up countrywide.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which won the past four elections, has fielded a total of 1,350 candidates – many more than those being fielded by any of the country’s opposition parties.
The Ethiopian parliament uses a simple majority system, with the party that wins the most seats appointing a prime minster and new government that will be drawn up in early October.
In 2005 polls, Ethiopian opposition parties won 30 percent of the seats in parliament, along with the Addis Ababa city administration.
At the time, however, they refused to join the assembly.
Following opposition claims that the election was rigged, violent demonstrations rocked capital Addis Ababa, leaving hundreds of people dead.
In 2010 polls, the ruling party took 99.6 percent of the seats in the assembly – a result that opposition parties described as “controversial.”
Ethiopia’s parliamentary system guarantees an unlimited term in office to the country’s prime minister, while limiting the president to two terms of 12 years each.
Incumbent Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn succeeded the late Meles Zenawi, a longtime leader of the EPRDF.
EPRDF leaders say they are confident of winning the election, while opposition parties voice concern that the polls will be rigged – despite assertions by the NEBE that it would work to ensure fair and transparent polls.
This year’s election will be conducted in the absence of any prominent foreign observers.
The EU and the U.S.-based Carter Center, which had observed previous Ethiopian elections, will not send monitors to next month’s polls.
The African Union and the Civil Society Association, a local NGO, are both set to deploy a significant number of observers, with the latter planning to send nearly 40,000 observers.